The Office: "Business Ethics"
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The Office: "Business Ethics"

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The Office

"Business Ethics"

Season 5, Episode 2

This season of The Office has been all about geek love. Jim and Pam, the Sam and Diane of the Youtube generation, totally got engaged, sour-faced scold Angela ditched Poindextrous fiancé Andy for clandestine trysts with Dwight. Most adorably, Michael has a puppy dog crush on new human resources woman Holly, who seems to be getting more irresistibly dorky with each episode. She somehow manages to make the prospect of a female Michael Scott seem weirdly sexy.

Ah, but the course of geek love seldom runs smoothly, as we learned in tonight's episode. It kicked off with an awesome cold open where Pam, brooding over the fact that no one at the office has congratulated her on her engagement, learns that Jim hasn't told the gang that he totes is getting married.

When Jim delivers the big news his co-workers are hilariously indifferent. Some view Jim and Pam's engagement as a sorry sequel to the more exciting, newsworthy Roy and Pam engagement (now there was a couple worth getting excited about). Others thought they were already engaged. Creed, meanwhile, seems only vaguely cognizant that he works with a guy named Jim. Like the truck stop wedding proposal in the rain, the cold open undercuts the inherent sentimentality of the Jim and Pam love brigade with wry, acerbic humor. Good stuff.

Jim and Pam aren't the only wage slaves hooking up. During a meeting about Business Ethics we learn that Meredith is fucking a supplier in exchange for discounts and coupons for Outback Steaks. Michael sees this as a win-win proposition: Meredith gets rewarded for what she gladly, indiscriminately does for free and Dunder-Mifflin saves money. Holly is less understanding and the conflict threatens to derail the Michael/Holly romance before it begins.

Tonight's episode was full of exquisitely awkward moments and deep underlying sadness. No moment was more heartbreaking than Meredith's sad confession that "After we did it and he gave me those steak coupons I just felt good about myself." Meredith tends to be drawn rather broadly, as the hatchet-faced office trollop, but you can't help but feel for a gal who gets a massive boost in self-esteem from fucking her way to sirloin steaks.

In a slyly funny subplot, Jim takes Dwight's contention that he never wastes a second of company time or engages in the deplorable practice of "time theft" as a challenge to trick him into losing his cool and contradicting himself. The episode's funniest scene finds Jim trying to bait Dwight into losing his cool by discussing Battlestar Galactica in the most infuriating, inaccurate way possible, positing it as both a shot-by-shot remake of the original and an amalgam of Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter.

In its own strange way, tonight really was all about business ethics. Does the end inevitably justify the means? Was Meredith really hurting anyone with her opportunistic fuckage? Should Holly's loyalties lie with her co-workers or her bosses? Is Michael getting himself into trouble by falling for an authority figure?

In a neat bit of irony, it's Holly, not Meredith, who ends up getting chastised by corporate: the Dunder-Mifflin bigshots are only too happy to look the other way if they can cut costs in a grim economy. Holly's good deed does not go unpunished. She has yet to learn that in the apathetic realm of Dunder-Mifflin it doesn't pay to be a whistle blower or a do-gooder.

Incidentally, is anyone else developing a geek crush on Holly? She's just so fucking cute, especially when she's behaving like a total dork, like in an awesome "Physical" parody where she and Michael fumble their way through half-assed spoof lyrics but mostly just end up performing a terrible cover of the original. Do you guys see these lovable losers hooking up any time soon, or are they going to stretch out the sexual tension, Jim and Pam/Cajun style?

Grade: A- Stray Observations– –"The tall guy got engaged." –"It's going to be insane. No, it's not. I've got to read from the binder." –"You can't set them up like that." –"I've got a bag of cigars in my purse." –"We need to be Robin Williams and M. Night Shyamalan" –"It's a trick question. The bread is poisoned." –"This is her main source of money." –"How do you tell someone you care about deeply, 'I told you so'"

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